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Traveling in Asia: Tips on Tipping

Posted February 20th, 2012
by Staff Writers

In the United States, tipping is a huge part of the culture. When traveling to traveling to other parts of the world, it’s natural to assume that tipping is customary elsewhere as well. In reality, that’s often not the case. To avoid committing serious faux pas while traveling in a place like Asia, you should study up on when tipping is acceptable and when it isn’t. Customs vary significantly from one Asian country to the next, so you should never assume that neighboring countries have the same views on tipping. Below, you can learn more about the tipping customs of eight Asian cities.

Jakarta, Indonesia

The bustling city of Jakarta, which has a population of nearly 10 million people, is the largest one in Indonesia. It’s also the capital, so it is a common destination for tourists. The official currency is the rupiah, and it’s customary to tip with extra rupiahs in certain situations.

For example:

  1. Tipping is expected in upscale restaurants. Tip an extra 1,000 rupiahs.
  2. At hotels, you should tip around 100 rupiahs per bag.
  3. When traveling by taxi, you should plan on tipping about 500 rupiahs.

By keeping these rules of thumb in mind, you shouldn’t embarrass yourself while you’re in Jakarta.

Seoul, South Korea

With a population of more than 10 million people, Seoul is an exciting and vibrant city to visit. It’s also the capital of South Korea, and it’s bursting at its seams with great museums and other cultural attractions. The South Korean won is the official currency in Seoul. In general, tipping is not expected. You shouldn’t plan on tipping in restaurants, and you should never tip the taxi driver. If you try to tip the driver, he’ll probably refuse the extra money. As far as hotels go, international hotels roll a 10 percent fee into the cost of the stay, and tips are not expected by porters.

Bangkok, Thailand

Approximately 12 million people live in Bangkok, which also happens to be the capital of Thailand. There’s no end to the fun in this unique and exciting city, but it pays to have a firm grip on local customs concerning tipping. The official currency of Thailand is the baht. Things to keep in mind about tipping in Bangkok include:

  1. In Westernized restaurants, you will probably be automatically charged a 10 percent tip. You should plan on tipping extra as well.
  2. When staying at five-star hotels, you should tip porters 20 to 50 baht.
  3. To tip a cab driver, just round the fare up to the nearest five baht.

Singapore

Singapore is unique for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s actually a city-state. For another, tipping is technically against the law there. Therefore, there’s no question about whether or not you should tip people in Singapore. At the very most, you should simply plan on smiling and saying “thank you” upon receiving superior service. From hotels to restaurants to taxis, you shouldn’t plan on tipping anywhere while you are in Singapore. It simply isn’t done.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Compared with many other Asian cities, the population of Kuala Lumpur is relatively small. With around 1.6 million inhabitants, the capital of Malaysia is still a very fast-paced and exciting place to be. The official currency of Malaysia is the ringgit. Tipping is acceptable and expected in Kuala Lumpur, so you should make sure to keep extra ringgits on you at all times. Tips for tipping in Kuala Lumpur include:

  1. A 10 percent service charge will be automatically added to your bill in Westernized restaurants.
  2. Porters at five-star hotels should be given one or two ringgits per bag.
  3. In metered cabs, round up the fare to the nearest ringgit. Otherwise, you can bargain with the driver.

Hong Kong

If there’s one Asian city that you don’t want to miss, it’s Hong Kong. You also don’t want to embarrass yourself while you’re there, so you should know what to do when it comes to tipping there. In general, tipping is expected in Hong Kong, whose currency is the Hong Kong dollar. Keep these points in mind:

  1. In nice restaurants, it is customary to tip around 100 HKD.
  2. At hotels, you should tip porters 20 HKD when they handle your luggage for you.
  3. When traveling by cab, just round the fare up to the nearest dollar.

Manila, Philippines

Manila is the capital of the Philippines, and it has a population of around 1.6 million people. You should expect to pay tips when you visit this sprawling, intriguing city, where the peso is the official currency. Basic tips about tipping in Manila include:

  1. Although a 10 percent gratuity will be automatically added to most restaurant bills, you should plan on tipping an extra five to 10 percent.
  2. Porters typically receive 20 pesos per bag.
  3. In taxis, you should just round up the total amount of the fare to the nearest five pesos.

Tokyo, Japan

One of the rudest things you can do in Japan is pay a tip. Tipping is definitely not done in this fascinating island nation, and Tokyo is no exception. If you’re lucky enough to travel to Tokyo, simply pay what you owe and leave it at that. According to most sources, tips are automatically added to whatever is being charged. The good news is that you’ll have a much easier time avoiding trouble while you’re in Japan because there’s no question about paying a tip. Just keep your extra money in your pocket or spend it on unique souvenirs.

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